As we all hectically prepare for next week’s seders – and for the rest of Passover as well – it is good, although disheartening, to be reminded that many in this nation are what’s euphemistically called “food insecure.”

Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9), visiting Yavneh Academy in Paramus on Tuesday, told seventh-graders there that “one in five American children go to bed hungry every night.” (See page 6.)

That’s hard – difficult, painful – to believe, but it is true. According to a 2009 U.S. Department of Agriculture report, “Of the 50.2 million people living in food insecure households (up from 36.2 million in 2008), 33.0 million are adults (14.5 percent of all adults) and 17.2 million are children (23.2 percent of all children).”

Other sources cite a figure of one in six, or even one in four, children who go hungry.

As we have fallen deeper into this recession, the figures are no doubt even more dismal.

Hungry children cannot develop healthy bodies and sound brains. They cannot learn and create and thrive in an increasingly competitive society and fall, as adults, increasingly far from any safety nets. And while this is a terrible loss to such children and their families, it is also a loss to the nation. We are deprived of their possibility, of any energy, intelligence, and talent they might have possessed.

There is also an economic reckoning: Illnesses and incapacity resulting from childhood malnutrition are a drain on our society.

We’re grateful to organizations that call us to order on this issue – particularly to the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, which has been holding “hunger seders” and stressing that in this time of budget cuts, social safety nets must remain intact. See “End, don’t extend, the scandal of hunger of America,” by Leonard Fein and Jackie Levine, at www.jstandard.com.

Dear readers, we wish you a zissen Pesach.